By Marco Giusti
"Hey buddy ... you know I tell you, Frank Kramer is dead! Frank Kramer seemed to be immortal, that is Gianfranco Parolini, born in Rome in 1925, who left yesterday in his city of Rome. He, that created many heroes for the western cinema, the peplum, the macaroni war movies and the Italian 007. Sartana, Sabata, Indio Black, The frantic Three Supermen. With more and more absurd titles, like Indio Black, you know I tell you, that you are a great son of ....
Not to mention the series of Agent Jo Walker with Tony Kendall and Brad Harris protagonists, well known in Germany as Kommissar X. Or “5 for Hell” with Gianni Garko and Klaus Kinski, beloved by Quentin Tarantino. Master of the genre cinema, and of the cinema made with the great Italian stuntmen, like Aldo Canti called Robustino and, in art, Nick Jordan, perhaps the most phenomenal acrobat we have ever had, Parolini was one of the few Italian directors who in the post-war period that could speak English well.
So after h disebut as a script supervisor for Francesco, Rosselli's “Don Camillo di Duvivier”, he found help on the set of films shot in Rome of great importance, such as “Fontana di Trevi”, which he often remembered, but also of “Cleopatra”.
After having made the bones as Vittorio Cottafavi's help on “The Gladiator Revolt”, he broke right into the peplum, which remained his favorite genre, practically turning “Goliath Against the Giants” alone, but attributed to Guido Malatesta, and then throwing himself into “Samson” and “The Fury of Hercules”, who practically revolved together and which were his first real great successes, followed by the phenomenal “The Ten Gladiators” and “The Invincible Three”.
On these sets he met both Brad Harris, an American soldier who will remain his friend for life, but also Roger Browne, Mimmo Palmara, Sal Borgese, Pietro Torrisi, Vassili Karis and all the great Italian actors and stuntmen of the genre. Even a frustrating and insane Serge Gainsbourg that lit his cigars by burning the dinars in Tito's Yugoslavia.
Unlike the old directors like Guido Malatesta or Primo Zeglio, Parolini had an adventurous cinema that was much bolder and more brash, and in a hurry. Often with two titles at a time, as was done then. And full of action comedy ideas when the genre in Italy did not yet exist.
Parolinate, Sergio Leone bubbled, when Parolini took his place at the PEA of Alberto Grimaldi for the western after “Il buono, il ugro, il cattivo”. Parolini, fresh from the success of “If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death” with Gianni Garko, he introduced himself Lee Van Cleef, dressed in the role of “Sabata” and immediately afterwards he turned the sequel, “Return of Sabata”.
His films were seen all over the world, with frightful proceeds. He remembered Sandro Mancori, his great friend and director of photography: "Grimaldi took Parolini after seeing his Sartana. Gianfranco is a bit 'the reverse of the medal of Sergio Leone. He manages with his intelligence to overthrow the most violent situations. Together with our film, Grimaldi was also producing Fellini's “Satyricon” and Pontimorvo's “Queimada”.
On the set you never saw". Even though the Sabata collections were crazy for the time, Leone never forgave Grimaldi for having replaced him with Parolini and his "parolinate". It was a friction that even arose from the set of the peplums, when Leone turned extremely slowly “The Colossus of Rhodes” while Parolini churned out one after the other. Leone saw a degeneration in the western comic of the Sartanas and Sabatas. But for Parolini that was his style. On the third film, however, Lee Van Cleef left, and his place was taken by Yul Brynner, then not so popular. Indio Black was immediately renamed, and the film became “Adios, Sabata”, you know I tell you: you're a great son of ... but Parolini never took to Yul Brynner.
As he himself said: "We were about to shoot the first shot of the film that was actually the final of the film: he came in with the poncho all dressed in black and had to say: 'Where is the gold?'. Then he enters, opens the door and says the joke with his vocation. I was not at all satisfied with his performance, I let out a joke out loud, countering his joke with a '1930 ...' in English, to emphasize his acting too much set, as an old actor ... mortacci, misses a little that kills me ... it was old for me, already there was the setting of the actor passed ... it was left to the magnificent seven and I did it for all the film is beaten ... m ' he did suffer a lot, but I do not know is' shut up!".
Parolini uses Lee Van Cleef in “God’s Gun”, a late and crazy western film shot for Golan and Globus in the Sinai desert in Israel, in the middle of the war. The troupe was left by the two scoundrel producers "in the desert without a lira and above all without water!" Recalls Parolini, 'There was Lee Van Cleef who told me' I'm leaving !? and I: 'No, you have to do all the first floors first, then you can annà ...' So I went with him over 50 close-ups, then I placed the double and worked everything out! (..) But 'I'm making the film with me and Sybil Danning, another beautiful woman, who as I knew made me understand that if I wanted to do ... and in fact after Tel Aviv happened a mess that no longer ended!
At the time she was Bill Foreman's woman who had 600 theaters in the United States and he too had become my friend. I remember that he arrived on the set cò is the hairpiece that he had done she puts her because she was without hair, but she was a good person, caruccio! ". Mancori considered it a good film, like all those of Parolini. "Justice always triumphs in his films. While Leone is always violent, even when he writes, Gianfranco puts intelligence behind violence. It is never direct ".
In underneath who touches the protagonist is the American and Communist folksinger Dean Reed, who will end up overwhelmed in East Germany in a bizarre story of espionage with a tragic ending. But Parolini had always considered him a good boy. As a good boy, he also believed Aldo Canti, who was executed in a trucid way at Villa Borghese in 1990. He loved difficult characters and crazy actors, such as Klaus Kinski or Serge Gainsbourg.
When Bud & Terence arrived, Parolini, who had largely invented the genre with Sabata, two films very similar to those with the two actors, “Questa volta ti faccio ricco” and “We Are no Angels”, shot with the official double of the two, that is the big Israeli Paul Smith and the thin Michael Coby, that is the italianissino Antonio Cantafora. With the crisis of the genre cinema he tried other ways, like the crazy film “Yeti - The Giant of the Twentieth Century” with special effects not too successful but they were not forgiven even by the most avid fans.
Or the peplum porno Rome, the ancient key of the senses. But Parolini would have shot anything. It was enough that it was cinema. Gelli, the head of P2, turned to him when he thought of producing a film about his life. Parolini went to see him, but slammed into his car before entering his villa.
He got angry and did not do anything, even tried to sue Gelli for the damage of the car. Why did he call Parolini as a director and at the same time actors like Sean Connery remains a beautiful mystery. Every time I saw him he raised a couple of peplums to be filmed in co-production with China. Always imminent. A man of great sympathy, full of verve even as an old man, he went for fun and cheerful as he had always been.
PAROLINI, Gianfranco (aka Frank Kramer)
Born: 2/20/1925, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Died: 4/26/2018, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Gianfranco Parolini’s westerns – director, assistant director, writer, film editor, actor:
River Pirates of the Mississippi – 1963 [assistant director]
The Tall Women – 1966 [director]
Left Handed Johnny West – 1967 [director, writer]
If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death – 1968 [writer, actor]
Sabata – 1969 [director]
Adios, Sabata – 1970 [director, writer, film editor]
Return of Sabata – 1971 [director, writer, film editor]
We Are No Angels – 1975 [director, writer]
God’s Gun – 1976 [director, writer]